April 17, 2024

Here Lies northern Michigan’s Famous — and Not So Famous — Dead

A who’s who of notable folks in our local cemeteries
By Ross Boissoneau | Oct. 20, 2018

The creepy graveyard haunted by restless spirits has long been a Halloween staple. Truth is, other than falling leaves, the Halloween season doesn’t really bring much change to a cemetery’s surroundings. Most across the region are peaceful, even scenic resting places for those who have passed on. But even if the folks inside are dead and gone, many have left us legacies — and a sense of their restless spirit while alive — that inspire us still.

Bruce Catton, Oct. 9, 1899–Aug. 28, 1978
Born in Petoskey and raised in his Beloved Benzonia (about which he penned his memoir, “Waiting for the Morning Train,” Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Bruce Catton was an American historian and journalist, known best for his books about the Civil War. Catton won a Pulitzer Prize in1954 for “A Stillness at Appomattox,” his study of the final campaign of the Civil war.
That same year, he took on the position as founding editor of American Heritagemagazine. Oliver Jensen, who succeeded him as editor of the magazine, wrote: “There is a near-magic power of imagination in Catton's work that seemed to project him physically into the battlefields, along the dusty roads and to the campfires of another age.”Catton received the Presidential Medal of Freedomfrom President Gerald R. Fordin1977, the year before his death. Ken Burns based his PBS series The Civil Warin part on Catton's books, which resulted in a revival of interest in Catton’s histories.
Gwen Frostic, April 26, 1906–April 25, 2001
Sarah Gwendolen Frostic was an artist and author, and is a member of the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. Lauded for her nature drawings, books, and stationery, her Benzonia business Presscraft Papers continues today, 17 years after her death. Originally trained as a teacher, Frostic soon embraced the art she had always loved to make a living. She first worked in metals, but the advent of World War II forced her to look to other media, and she turned to linoleum block carving. That eventually led to her starting her own printing company, Presscraft Papers, first downstate, then in Frankfort. Eventually she moved to Benzonia, where she designed her own home and workplace, incorporating native stones, glass, and wood.
Though she left school prior to her own graduation, Frostic bequeathed $13 million to Western Michigan University, one of the largest single gifts in the school's history.In 1978, Governor Milliken declared May 23 “Gwen Frostic Day” in Michigan. Today, Presscraft Papers still makes cards, papers and other products at its location just outside Benzonia.
Perry Hannah, Sept. 22, 1824–Aug. 16, 1904
Dubbed “Father of Traverse City,” Perry Hannah first came to the area in 1851 to inspect a timberland camp owned by Captain Harry Boardman. By the time of Hannah’ death 53 years later, he had bought the camp, opened the area’s first store and first bank, paid half the cost for the area’s first railroad, and served on the school board, and as supervisor and president of the village.
Thanks in large part to his persuasive abilities, Traverse City was chosen as the site of an asylum, which led to some $300 million being injected into the local economy by the state. Today the former Traverse City State Hospital, now the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, is being revived through the efforts of Ray Minervini. Hannah’s mansion is now the home of Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home, and his Hanna Lay mercantile building still stands at the northeast corner of Front and Cass Streets in downtown Traverse City.
Dr. Joe Maddy, Oct. 14, 1892–April 18, 1966
The founder of Interlochen Center for the Arts was an accomplished musician himself, serving as violist and clarinetist for the Minneapolis Symphony before he embarked on a teaching and administrative career that eventually impacted tens of thousands of musicians. He taught and supervised the teaching of music in public schools in New York, Indiana, and Ann Arbor, as well as at the Metropolitan School of Music in Chicago and the University of Michigan.
While in Ann Arbor he was asked to create a national youth orchestra, which led to the founding of the National Music Camp in 1928. On June 24, 1928, 115 students arrived by train, bus and car from across the country. In 1962, Maddy and a staff of 34 opened Interlochen Arts Academy, the country’s first independent arts boarding school. A year later, Interlochen launched WIAA, an FM public radio station that joined forces with 37 radio stations across the country in 1971 to create National Public Radio. In 1964, the first Interlochen Arts Festival brought to campus the Philadelphia Orchestra and Harvey Lavan "Van" Cliburn Jr, an American pianist phenom who, at the age of 23, won Moscow’s inaugural International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in 1958.
John Hyland, 1819–Aug. 10, 1867
Hyland emigrated to the United States from Ireland, where he served in the Union Navy during the Civil War. The assistant gunner was cited for his bravery during an engagement in May 1864. His citation reads, "The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Seaman John Hyland, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in action, serving as seaman on board the USS Signal which was attacked by field batteries and sharpshooters and destroyed in Red River, 5 May 1864. Proceeding up the Red River, the USS Signal engaged a large force of enemy field batteries and sharpshooters, returning their fire until the ship was totally disabled, at which time the white flag was raised. Although wounded, Hyland courageously went in full view of several hundred sharpshooters and let go the anchor, and again to slip the cable, when he was again wounded by the raking enemy fire."The award was give Dec. 31, 1864, presumably by President Abraham Lincoln.
John Frederick “Jack” Lundbom, March 10, 1877–Oct. 31, 1949
Lundbom played major league baseball for the Cleveland Bluebirds in the 1902 season. Cleveland had several iterations of professional baseball teams in the late 1800s, all of which failed: the Forest Citys, the Blues, the Spiders, the Infants, and the Babes. In 1894, the Grand Rapids Rustlers moved to Cleveland, where they became the Bluebirds, often shortened to the Blues. In 1902, Lundbom’s only season in the big leagues, the players tried to change the name to the Broncos or Bronchos, but it never caught on. After later being known as the Cleveland Naps, the name was changed to the Indians in 1915.
A right-handed pitcher for the club, Lundbom appeared in eight games, starting three. His record was 1–1, with an ERA of 6.62. The Bluebirds finished in fifth place in the eight-team league. Lundbom was born in and died in Manistee.
William Smith Mesick,Aug. 26, 1856–Dec. 1, 1942
Born and raised in Newark, New York, Mesick moved to Michigan to attend Kalamazoo Business College before matriculating to the University of Michigan to study law. He graduated in 1881 and passed the bar. He began practicing that year in Mancelona before serving as Antrim County Prosecuting Attorney for one term.
In 1896, Mesick ran for and was elected to Congress, serving the state’s 11th congressional district. He was re-elected in 1898, and during that session of Congress (the 56th), he was chairman of the Committee on Elections No. 3. He lost the Republican nomination to Congress in 1900. After losing his seat in Washington, D.C., Mesick resumed his practice in Mancelona, then moved to Petoskey, where he died.
Deborah DeCostello, 1893–Oct. 1, 1920
DeCostello was an early aviatrix daredevil who parachuted from from airplanes at fairs. Legend says she is the first female to do so. She was in Empire as part of the town fair in late September 1920. The fairgrounds were located north of the village, across from the Catholic cemetery on M-22. She was scheduled to jump on the 29thand 30thfor $600, but the weather was very bad, and the jumps were canceled. She was offered $400 for her time, but chose to jump after the fair had ended on Thursday, Oct. 1.
The pilot misjudged the wind, and took her out over Lake Michigan, thinking the wind would blow her back in to shore. Instead, she went directly into the water. The coast guard was summoned from Glen Haven, but by the time they arrived there was no sign of DeCostello or her chute. Her body washed ashore Nov. 6 under one of the tramways along Lake Michigan. As no family members could be located, she was buried at St. Philip Neri cemetery, not far from where she started her fatal flight.
Guy Vander Jagt, Aug. 26, 1931–June 22, 2007
Longtime politician Vander Jagt served in the state legislature before moving onto the national stage. He got his start in his hometown of Cadillac, where he began delivering sermons as a high school senior with aspirations of becoming a minister. He graduated from Hope College and then earned a degree in divinity from Yale before changing direction. Following a stint as anchor and news director at WWTV in Cadillac, he went to law school, graduating from the University of Michigan. Vander Jagt ran for the Michigan State Senate, from which he resigned in 1966 when he was appointed to fill an unexpired term in Congress.Vander Jagt served from 1966 to 1993, when he was defeated in the Republican primary by Peter Hoekstra, at which point he went back into private law practice.
He was famed for his rich oratory, and was described by President Nixon as “the best public speaker in America.” In 1980, Vander Jagt was chosen by presidential nominee Ronald Reagan to deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in Detroit; he delivered the entire address from memory. Reagan was quoted as saying, "Some call me the great communicator, but if there was one thing I dreaded during my eight years in Washington it was having to follow Guy Vander Jagt to the podium.”


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